Climate Change: Impact on Food Security in Pakistan

One of the most common and yet absolutely untrue allegations made against climate change is that it is not personal. Climate change is a people issue and to drive this critical message home we decided to talk about climate change and its impact on something as personal as it can ever be: food. Changing climate will have a huge effect on the crops we grow and the livestock we raise. At first blush, it may seem that warmer weather farther north will increase growing seasons and open up more cold landscapes to agriculture. But a closer look reveals climate change’s impacts on weather patterns will have many seriously adverse effects that will threaten food security around the world. Here are a few of the insidious ways climate change will pose a threat to agriculture ultimately to Food security:

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Climate change causes new patterns of crops, cultivation and humans and animal disease, and affectation new risks for food security, safety and human health. Effects of climate change may be positive or negative, resulting from the complex interactions of temperature and precipitation.  World Health Organization (WHO) defines food security as “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.” Concepts of food security are both physical and economic access to food that meets people’s dietary needs.

Pakistan is highly vulnerable to climate change due to its geographic location, high dependence on agriculture and water resources, low adaptive capacity of its people, and weak system of emergency preparedness. Pakistan is country whose economy (21 %) is predominantly based on agriculture; however, country is facing problems of cropped food shortage, high inflation and irrigation water scarcity. Resultantly, there is observed constant rise in temperature about 0.76°C in country generally and about 1.5°C rise in mountain regions of Pakistan that holds about 5000 glaciers in KHH ranges. In recent years, gradual decreasing trend in per capitaL surface water availability has been observed, from 5260 m3 per year in 1951, to just 1000 to 1066 m3 in 2008 in Pakistan. Due to rise in temperature especially in glaciered region and associated variations in precipitation pattern, the glaciers are melting and causing extreme events like floods because country although having world’s largest integrated irrigation system, does not have adequate water reservoirs to hold extra water.

In Pakistan, almost 61 percent (84 out of 137) of the districts (mostly in Khyber Pakhtunkhua, FATA and Balochistan) are reported as undersupplied for food both cropped as well as animal-based food. This shortage of food is mainly because of low-cropped productivity due to rise in temperature and scarcity of irrigation water. due to scarcity of irrigation water, the farmers are shifting cultivation from water intensive crops like rice, wheat, cotton and sugarcane (staple food) to low water required crops and vegetables putting pressure on food market. Moreover, the crops yield is also less due to strong evaporation and the severity of temperature during long summer season. Production of chief staple food like wheat, rice and sugarcane is reduced over first decade of 21st century in Pakistan.

On the other hand Pakistan’s population is increasing with almost 2 percent growth rate and therefore there is greater demand of food supply into market. However, due to inadequate supply of food in the market, the Inflation rate is being too high in this decade. Resultantly, the chief staple foods like wheat, rice, maize, sugarcane and vegetables have become out of reach of poor people and have further enhanced the vulnerability of poor marginalized segment of society.The most recent estimates by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) state that 37.5 million people in Pakistan are not receiving proper nourishment and 24 percent of the population is undernourished. The issue is complex and widespread, with deficiencies ranging from protein to iodine, along with other health problems due to insufficient intake of these essential nutrients.  Therefore, at this time, there is greater need to address the trans-boundary climate change issues; better management of water resources along with policies to shift into green economy, globally as well as countries specific. Protecting local food supplies, assets and livelihoods against the effects of increasing weather variability and increased frequency and intensity of extreme events, through:

  • general risk management
  • management of risks specific to different ecosystems – marine, coastal, inland water floodplain, forest, dry land, island, mountain, polar, cultivated
  • research and dissemination of crop varieties and breeds adapted to changing climatic conditions
  • make immediate changes in our energy infrastructure to reduce emissions and (hopefully) slowly but surely change climate change.